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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tip Tuesday: Getting the most out of Extra Magic Hours

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

For those of you new to the DisneyDaddy blog, this is a weekly feature in which I offer a tip to help make your next visit to Walt Disney World a little better.

Anyone heading to Walt Disney World should know about a little perk Disney gives guests for staying on-property: Extra Magic Hours. While this is no big secret, there is some debate about the benefits of Extra Magic Hours (or EMH) and how to best use them.

For those that don't know what Extra Magic Hours are, I'll give you the quick rundown. WDW pros can feel free to skip this part. With Extra Magic Hours, a Disney park will either open an hour early or stay open up to three hours late. Only guests who are staying on-property (and have a Key to the World Card) can take advantage of EMH. Most times, two parks offer EMH each day (one early, one late).

There are some sites and books out there that suggest that guests should generally avoid parks that have EMH hours for that day. For instance, if the Magic Kingdom has early EMH, and Disney's Hollywood Studios has late EMH, guests should avoid both parks and go to either Epcot or Disney's Animal Kingdom.

I understand the thought process behind this suggestion. It has been proven (through monitoring of wait times at key attractions) that the crowds at a particular park will be heavier on EMH days than regular days. OK, fine, I accept that fact.

But here's where the tip comes in: Ignore that advice. Take advantage of Extra Magic Hours - especially early EMH! Otherwise, you're just short-changing yourself.

Yes, you might experience a little extra crowding, but it won't be disastrous. Besides, isn't it better to deal with a little extra crowding and enjoy the parks instead of sitting back in your hotel room? That seems like a no-brainer to me.

As for which EMH are better -- I'll take early EMH over late any day of the week. During MouseFest weekend back in December, I was able to use early EMH at Epcot and rode Soarin' and Test Track (via standby lines) before the rest of the park opened (and had a later FastPass for Soarin' in hand as well). Not bad for only one hour. Similarly last Easter (one of the busiest times of the year), I used early EMH to catch a few attractions at the Magic Kingdom and grab some FastPasses before park opening.

That doesn't mean late EMH are bad. Generally people tend to prefer using the later hours as opposed to the early ones (I guess it's tough for some to get up early while on vacation), that's why I like to use early EMH. That being said, I do enjoy staying very late at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot - the best parks at night. There are some great photo opportunities (I'll have to talk about these in a future Tip Tuesday post) and the crowds tend to dwindle down especially during the final hour.

So be sure to take advantage of Extra Magic Hours - it's a perk for staying on property and one you'll appreciate!


Jeff Heimbuch said...

I'm only going to disagree with you about the late EMH only because that's what afforded me the opportunity to propose to my girlfriend by the castle at night in a very secluded pathway!

Other than that, EMH rock!

Chuck Lionberger said...

Like I said, I prefer early EMH to late, but that doesn't mean I don't like late hours.

-- Ryan P. Wilson said...

We always utilize early EMHs, and love using the late hours for, as you said, photography. While Magic Kingdom and Epcot are spectacular at night for pictures, I'd have to add in that winter nights in Disney's Animal Kingdom are pure gold. While chilly, the combination of early sunsets and EMHs offer some great photographs that are not available otherwise.

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